By Kiraz Janicke
November 9, 2009 -- Venezuelanalysis.com -- The possibility of an
imperialist-backed war in the Americas came a step closer on October 30, when
Colombia and the United States finalised a 10-year accord allowing the
US to massively expand its military presence in the Latin American country. The move comes as the US. seeks to regain its hegemony over Latin
America – which has declined over the past decade in the context of a
continent-wide rebellion against neoliberalism spearheaded by the revolution in Venezuela, led by President Hugo Chavez.
In order to regain control of its “backyard”, the US is
increasingly resorting to more interventionist measures. This is
reflected by the recent military coup in Honduras, the destabilisation of
progressive governments in Bolivia, Venezuela, Ecuador and Paraguay, and
a massive military build up in the region, including new military bases
in Panama and the reactivation of the US navy's Fourth Fleet.
Over the past decade the Venezuelan government, which is the fifth-largest oil exporter in the world, has used its control over this
resource to massively increase social spending. This has resulted in
significant achievements, such as poverty levels being reduced by half,
the eradication of illiteracy, and the provision free universal education and
healthcare for the poor.
In 2005 Chavez declared the revolution to be socialist in
its aims. Since then, in addition to regular elections and referendums,
the government has sought to promote grassroots democracy and
participation, through the creation of institutions such as urban land
committees, health committees, grassroots assemblies, communes,
workers’ councils and communal councils.
However, these pro-poor and redistributive policies have
increasingly brought the Chavez government into conflict with powerful
economic interests both in Venezuela and the US. The new military bases deal
with US ally Colombia poses a direct threat to this radical process of social change.
Hand in hand with this military build up has come a fraudulent
propaganda campaign that tries to paint the democratically elected
Chavez government as a “dictatorship” and claims that include that the government
promotes drug trafficking and supplies arms to left-wing guerrillas in
Tensions between Venezuela and the US-aligned government of
Colombian President Alvaro Uribe have also increased with the deal. As
the negotiations came to light in July, Chavez ordered the “freezing”
of all diplomatic and commercial relations with Colombia.
With the finalisation of the US-Colombia accord Chavez declared that Colombia
had handed over its sovereignty to the US. “Colombia today is no
longer a sovereign country... it is a kind of colony”, he said.
Under the deal, the US military has access, use and free movement
among two air bases, two naval bases and three army bases, in addition
to an existing two military bases, as well as all international
civilian airports across the country. The deal also grants US personnel full diplomatic immunity for any
human rights abuses or other crimes committed on Colombian soil.
Among other things, US military, civilian and diplomatic
personnel and contractors covered by the accord are also exempt from
customs duties, tariffs, rent and taxes, while ships and planes are
exempt from most cargo inspections.
Although US officials claim publicly that only 800 personnel will
operate in Colombia the deal places no limits on the numbers of
military personnel that can be deployed.
Launch pad for military intervention
US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
have repeatedly denied that under the accord Colombia will be used as a
launching pad for military interventions in other South American
However, as James Suggett pointed out in a recent
Venezuelanalysis.com article, the US military’s financial documents
tell a different story.
“The Pentagon budget for the year 2010 says the Department of
Defense seeks ‘an array of access arrangements for contingency
operations, logistics, and training in Central/South America,’ and
cites a $46 million investment in the “development” of Colombia’s
Palanquero air base as a key part of this”, Suggett wrote.
Also the 2010 fiscal year budget of the US Air Force Military
Construction Program describes the Palanquero base as a “Cooperative
Security Location (CSL)”, which “provides a unique opportunity for full
spectrum operations in a critical subregion of our hemisphere where
security and stability is under constant threat from narcotics funded
terrorist insurgencies, anti-US governments, [author’s emphasis] endemic poverty and recurring natural disasters.”
“A presence [at the Palanquero base] will also increase our
capability to conduct Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance
(ISR), improve global reach, support logistics requirements, improve
partnerships, improve theater security cooperation, and expand
expeditionary warfare capability”, the budget document states.
“It also supports mobility missions by providing access to the
entire continent, except the Cape Horn region, if fuel is available,
and over half of the continent if unrefueled”, the budget continues.
On August 10, Chavez said in an open letter to all
South American presidents that the US-Colombian bases deal shows that
the US empire wants to “control our resources”.
Colombian paramilitaries operating illegally in Venezuela’s oil rich
border regions, together with the right-wing opposition in Venezuela,
are the advance guard of this imperialist project to destabilise and
ultimately defeat the Bolivarian Revolution.
Tensions flared in recent weeks when the bodies of nine Colombians
believed to have been executed by an illegal armed group were found
dumped in the border state of Tachira. The Venezuelan government said
the group was part of a “paramilitary infiltration plan”.
In addition, Venezuela announced that it has captured three
Colombians accused of spying for Colombia’s intelligence service, the
Administrative Security Department (DAS), as well as documents that
indicate that Colombia sent spies to Venezuela, Ecuador and Cuba as
part of a CIA operation.
Then on November 2, two Venezuelan National Guard members were shot
dead at a border checkpoint by armed gunmen. In response the Venezuelan
army has begun massive security sweeps of the border region where
paramilitary groups, Colombian guerrillas, extortion and kidnapping
rings and smugglers are rife.
Trade between the two countries dropped a dramatic 49.5% for
September, after Chavez ordered commercial relations to be “reduced to
zero” to protest the bases.
Former Colombian President Ernesto Samper, who has criticised the
bases deal, said in a recent interview “we are in a pre-war situation…
the situation could harden and reach extremes”.
Brazil, the major economy in South America, has called for “dialogue” between Chavez and Uribe.
While an armed conflict is a possibility, the current tactic of the
US is to continue undermining and destabilising the Venezuelan
revolution in the hope that it will collapse under its own weight.
A war would also be dangerous for US imperialism already bogged
down in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Even a proxy war via Colombia
would be likely to spiral out of control. Latin America’s poor,
downtrodden and marginalised have had a taste of independence; it is
likely they would fight back.
[Kiraz Janicke is a member of the Australian Socialist Alliance resident in Venezuela. An abridged version of this article was published on November 7, 2009, in Green Left Weekly].
Official US Air Force document reveals true intentions behind US-Colombia military agreement
By Eva Golinger
November 5, 2009 -- Venezuelanalysis.com -- An official document from the Department of the US Air Force reveals
that the military base in Palanquero, Colombia, will provide the
Pentagon with “…an opportunity for conducting full spectrum operations
throughout South America”. This information contradicts the
explanations offered by Colombia's President Alvaro Uribe and the US
State Department regarding the military agreement signed between the
two countries on October 30.
Both governments have stated that the military agreement refers only to counternarcotics and
counterterrorism operations within Colombian territory. President Uribe
has reiterated numerous times that the military agreement with the US
will not affect Colombia’s neighbours, despite constant concern in the
region regarding the true objetives of the agreement. But a US Air
Force document, dated May 2009, confirms that the fears of South
American governments have been right on target. The document reveals that the aim is to allow the US to engage
in “full spectrum military operations in a critical sub-region of our
hemisphere where security and stability is under constant threat from
narcotics funded terrorist insurgencies … and anti-US governments...”.
The military agreement between Washington and Colombia authorises
the access and use of seven military installations in Palanquero,
Malambo, Tolemaida, Larandia, Apíay, Cartagena and Málaga.
Additionally, the agreement allows for “the access and use of all other
installations and locations as necessary” throughout Colombia, with no
restrictions. Together with the complete immunity the agreement
provides to US military and civilian personnel, including private
defence and security contractors, the clause authorising the US to
utilise any installation throughout the entire country -- even
commercial aiports -- for military ends signifies a complete renouncing
of Colombia's sovereignty and officially converts Colombia into a
client state of the US.
The US Air Force document underlines the importance of the military
base in Palanquero and justifies the US$46 million requested in the 2010
budget (now approved by US Congress) in order to improve the airfield,
associated ramps and other installations on the base to convert it into
a US Cooperative Security Location (CSL).
“Establishing a Cooperative
Security Location (CSL) in Palanquero best supports the COCOM’s
(Command Combatant’s) Theater Posture Strategy and demonstrates our
commitment to this relationship. Development of this CSL provides a
unique opportunity for full spectrum operations in a critical
sub-region of our hemisphere where security and stability is under
constant threat from narcotics funded terrorist insurgencies, anti-US
governments, endemic poverty and recurring natural disasters”, the document states.
It’s not difficult to imagine which governments in South America are
considered by Washington to be “anti-US governments”. The constant
agressive declarations and statements emitted by the US state and defence departments and the US Congress against Venezuela and Bolivia, and even
to some extent Ecuador, evidence that the ALBA countries are the ones
perceived by Washington as a “constant threat”. To classify a country
as “anti-US” is to consider it an enemy of the United States. In this
context, it’s obvious that the military agreement with Colombia is a
reaction to a region the US now considers full of “enemies”.
“Access to Colombia will further its
strategic partnership with the United States. The strong security
cooperation relationship also offers an opportunity for conducting full
spectrum operations throughout South America to include mitigating the counternarcotics capability.” This statement clearly evidences that
counternarcotics operations are secondary to the real objectives of the
military agreement between Colombia and Washington. Again, this clearly
contrasts the constant declarations of the Uribe and Obama governments
insisting that the main focus of the agreement is to combat drug
trafficking and production. The Air Force document emphasises the
necessity to improve “full spectrum” military operations throughout
South America – not just in Colombia – in order to combat “constant
threats” from “anti-US governments” in the region.
The Air Force document explains that “Palanquero is unquestionably
the best site for investing in infrastructure development within
Colombia. Its central location is within reach of … operations areas … its
isolation maximizes Operational Security (OPSEC) and Force Protection
and minimizes the US military profile. The intent is to leverage
existing infrastructure to the maximum extent possible, improve the US
ability to respond rapidly to crisis, and assure regional access and
presence at minimum cost. Palanquero supports the mobility mission by
providing access to the entire South American continent with the
exception of Cape Horn…”
Espionage and warfare
The document additionally confirms that the US military presence in
Palanquero will improve the capacity of espionage and
intelligence operations, and will allow US armed forces to increase
their warfare capabilities in the region. “Development of this CSL will
further the strategic partnership forged between the US and Colombia
and is in the interest of both nations… A presence will also increase
our capability to conduct Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance
(ISR), improve global reach, support logistics requirements, improve
partnerships, improve theater security cooperation and expand
expeditionary warfare capability.”
The language of war included in this document is evidence of the true
intentions behind the military agreement: preparing for war in Latin America. The past few
days have been full of conflict and tension between Colombia and
Venezuela. Just days ago, the Venezuelan government captured three
spies from the Colombian intelligence agency, DAS, and discovered
several active destabilisation and espionage operations against Cuba,
Ecuador and Venezuela. The operations -- Fénix, Salomón and Falcón,
respectively -- were revealed in documents found with the captured DAS
Approximately two weeks ago, 10 bodies were found in Táchira, a
border zone with Colombia. After completing the relevant
investigations, the Venezuelan government discovered that the bodies
belonged to Colombian paramilitaries infiltrated inside Venezuelan
territory. This dangerous paramilitary infiltration from Colombia forms
part of a destabilisation plan against Venezuela that seeks to create a
paramilitary state inside Venezuelan territory in order to breakdown
President Chávez’s government.
The military agreement between Washington and Colombia will only
increase regional tensions and violence. The information revealed in
the US Air Force document unquestionably is evidence that Washington
seeks to promote a state of warfare in South America, using Colombia as
its launching pad. Before this declaration of war, the peoples of Latin
America must stand strong and unified. Latin American integration is
the best defence against the Empire’s aggression.
*The US Air Force document was submitted in May 2009 to US Congress as
part of the 2010 budget justification. It is an official government
document and reaffirms the authenticity of the White Book: Global
Enroute Strategy of the US Air Mobility Command, which was denounced by
President Chávez during the UNASUR meeting in Bariloche, Argentina, on August 28. I have placed the original document and the
non-official translation into Spanish of the relevant parts
relating to Palanquero on the web page of the Center to Alert and
Defend the People, a
new space created to guarantee that strategic information is
available to those under constant threat from imperialist aggression. The original document in English is at http://www.centrodealerta.org/documentos_desclasificados/original_in_english_air_for.pdf.